Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sculpture and the European Commission"s Definition of ART

It's only art if it's plugged in and turned on.
But really it's about the definitions of art and of money.

An Untitled Dan Flavin piece at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 The European Commission ruled that works of art by two American artists, Bill Viola and Dan Flavin are not sculpture, installation art or even works of art.
Photo by Kira Perov, courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York
Bill Viola, "Night Journey" video installation
They're lamps.

In its decision, the European Commission describes the Flavin work as having "the characteristics of lighting fittings... and is therefore to be classified... as wall lighting fittings."

In a discussion of Viola's work that really split hairs, the commission stated that Viola's video-sound installation cannot be considered sculpture "as it is not the installation that constitutes a 'work of art' but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it." 

Art is taxed at 5%, but lighting fixtures can be taxed at 20%.

Read more at the ArtInfo site. 

At the end of the article they mention US officials having the same problem with a sculpture by Brancusi.  His "Bird in Space" — a seminal abstract tapered bronze sculpture — was not considered an artwork according to customs, but rather fell under the classification of "Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies" and was subject to that category's higher tariff.

Maybe conceptual art is really about bureaucracy.

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